An anonymous tip given to Orlandi’s family led to the Vatican opening an investigation in the Teutonic cemetery to determine whether the daughter of a Vatican clerk, who mysteriously vanished when she was 15, was buried there.
An analysis of “several hundred partially intact bone structures” and “thousands of fragments” uncovered in the search was conducted on July 27, monitored by an expert appointed by the Orlandi family. But the findings showed that “none of the remains could be dated later than the end of the 19th century,” according to Vatican News.
It marks another turn in the saga that began when Orlandi, who lived with her family within the walls of the holy city, disappeared in the summer of 1983 while on her way home from a music lesson in central Rome.
The mystery surrounding Orlandi’s disappearance has gripped Italians for more than three decades, inspiring conspiracy theories involving everyone from mobsters to international terrorists, as well as the highest echelons of the Vatican.
The Holy See confirmed that the investigation of the cemetery had now come to an end, stressing its “desire to seek the truth about the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi” and denying that the “Holy See’s attitude of full cooperation and transparency can in any way signify an implicit admission of responsibility.”
Vatican News reported that further laboratory testing will be done on 70 bone fragments, upon the request of an advocate for the Orlandi family.
The search was prompted after the Orlandi family received an anonymous tip last summer, which hinted that Emanuela’s remains may be located in the tombs of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe and Princess Charlotte Federica of Mecklenburg at the Teutonic Cemetery.
The family had received an image of a sculpture and an instruction to “look where the angel is pointing.” This led them to the Teutonic Cemetery, which is located adjacent to Saint Peter’s Basilica and is typically reserved for the burials of German-speaking Catholics.
After the Vatican agreed for forensic investigators to open the tombs on July 11, no human remains nor traces of coffins were found. The Vatican indicated that the remains of the princesses may have been removed during renovation work on the cemetery and surrounding buildings in the 1960s and 70s.
Nevertheless, two ossuaries — chambers in which bones of the dead are stored — were uncovered during their investigations beneath the floor of an area inside the Teutonic College.
Investigators subsequently discovered “thousands of bones” in the chambers, which are believed to correspond to “dozens of people,” according to Giorgio Portera, a geneticist appointed by the Orlandi family.